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December 16, 2004 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Frustrated by web sites that don't offer a customer service number? Slate magazine discovers Amazon.com's. (Of course, they'll probably change it after it gets around...)
posted by braun_richard (42 comments total)

 
He discovered it with google? How is this news?
posted by agregoli at 8:50 AM on December 16, 2004


I hunted this down last Christmas after bothers with an order... found it on someone's blog. Immensely useful, if only to be able to yell at someone who's alive instead of sending off emails into the void of customerserviceland. Don't credit this journalist - shove that number into google and you find plenty of places who already had it listed. Or you could try "amazon customer service telephone number" in google.
posted by humuhumu at 8:52 AM on December 16, 2004


Not finding the customer service number on Amazon's Web site, I clicked through to Amazon's most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That sure is a lot of work. I called 411.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:52 AM on December 16, 2004


Yeah, I didn't realize til after the post that he found it with Google. Which is an odd thing, considering it was a "secret." But I guess news is news, even if it's easier-to-find-than-we-thought news.
posted by braun_richard at 8:54 AM on December 16, 2004


*scratches head*

Having placed dozens and dozens of orders with Amazon over the years with only a few problems--all of which were speedily addressed (and resolved) via emails--I don't quite understand why this is any kind of big deal. Unless, I guess, you just like to yell at the unlucky drones who get boned with phone duty.
posted by Skot at 8:56 AM on December 16, 2004


Noah found and printed it last year. The reason it is Google-able, by and large, is because people read about it last year in Slate and blogged it themselves. By mentioning that it is Googleable in the '04 version, he's simply pointing out the re-printing/re-writing the holiday story he's writing is pretty redundant.
posted by blueshammer at 9:12 AM on December 16, 2004


As these online sites ignore more and more mail from angry customers I expect this to be a growing thing (to attempt to hide your other methods of contact). eBay is the same way.

Personally, I now refuse to do business with companies which do not offer a phone number. No large company is so "online" they can't have a CSR manning some phone lines.
posted by shepd at 9:31 AM on December 16, 2004


Thanks for this. I'd never bothered to look for it, but had spent some time rather frustrated dealing with a DVD that died just before the end of the movie. Even though it was over two months old, my new friend in Chennai fixed the problem in two seconds. Jai, jai, phone sleuths!
posted by moonbird at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2004


As a customer service rep for a company that tries very hard to hide their phone number...yes, Amazon will shortly be changing their number.

The reason companies hide it is because it costs them money (time, people, etc) to take calls. So they wany only the people with real issues calling. Minor questions and easy issues should be handled through email. You might think this is poor customer service, but it's a good business model. You don't like and you aren't going to do business with us? Buh-bye!! We'd rather you go somewhere else than tie up our phone lines.

There have been a number of times where people call and give us a load of crap, dragging it out with stupid demands. I have more than once just refunded their order, politely informed them that they no longer have any business with us, and ended the call. Customers are not always right. That's why you email us.

Oh, and don't think talking to a "real person" will solve your problem any better than email. More than likely it's the same people doing phone calls as emails. You can yell at people in emails too. It's called ALL CAPS!!!
posted by BradNelson at 9:39 AM on December 16, 2004


Unless, I guess, you just like to yell at the unlucky drones who get boned with phone duty.

It's a choice, not a sentence.
posted by rushmc at 9:40 AM on December 16, 2004


Back in the mid-90s, I tried in vain to cancel an AOL membership via email. I never did find a phone number. I had to physically walk into their office to cancel. I wonder if they have gotten better about that?
posted by culberjo at 9:41 AM on December 16, 2004


You don't like and you aren't going to do business with us? Buh-bye!! We'd rather you go somewhere else than tie up our phone lines.

Yeah, because you make your money initially from...the ether? Osmosis? Please email me with your company name, because you exemplify the type of business I won't deal with. There are enough places who try to accommodate their customers and treat them with respect rather than as annoyances.
posted by rushmc at 9:42 AM on December 16, 2004


I'm an idiot for not googling. I've found amazon.com customer service very unhelpful...
posted by armacy at 9:45 AM on December 16, 2004


There are enough places who try to accommodate their customers and treat them with respect rather than as annoyances.

Actually, rushmc, I'd have to say that the majority of customer service reps think that most of the people they talk to on a daily basis are annoyances (I know I and most of the people I supervised did). The fact that they can hide that from you when you're talking to them just shows their acting ability (otherwise known as professionalism).
posted by jennybaxter at 9:59 AM on December 16, 2004


Data point: I've placed (personally and for my academic departments) many hundreds of orders with Amazon, and have only ever had two problems, both of which were resolved quickly and easily via email.
posted by dmd at 10:03 AM on December 16, 2004


Back in the mid-90s, I tried in vain to cancel an AOL membership via email. I never did find a phone number. I had to physically walk into their office to cancel. I wonder if they have gotten better about that?

They haven't. It took me six months of haggling to cancel them last year.
posted by CreequeAlley at 10:05 AM on December 16, 2004


A few weeks ago, This American Life re-aired a segment called On Hold, No One Can Hear You Scream...which was a fairly commonplace-sounding, if amusing, tale of customer service phone hell.

A personal note: Yahoo is a company just like this...but it's not even the phone number they hide...it's their email address. Last night, in a frustrated panic (as most quests for customer service seem to be), I attempted to get in touch with Yahoo Mail customer care...and the only way I found to "acheive" this was by clicking on a "survey question" in the sidebar of a help page saying the current help page doesn't help me at all...which triggered a popup with only one text box in which I could write my comments. No name require, nothing. Just comments. And no confirmation, either. Of course, I haven't heard back from them.
posted by tpl1212 at 10:12 AM on December 16, 2004


Hrm... I'm glad the number's been found for those who need it. I've ever only had one problem with them over the years where they sent me the wrong book. They told me to keep the book, and gave me back the money for the book I had ordered since it was out of print and the shipping for all 5 books in the order. All done within about 2 hours from first email to last email.

That said, I'm sure there's tons of horror stories, although Google only pulls up about 2000 results for "amazon sucks" versus the 11,000 for "paypal sucks", 15,000 for "walmart sucks", or 5,000 for "ebay sucks", which are the "sucks" campaigns that immediately come to mind from what I've read throughout the years.

Of course, it probably helps that Amazon has already registered amazonsucks.com, although why they haven't redirected it to amazon.com is a mystery to me.
posted by jakestone at 10:15 AM on December 16, 2004


Back in the mid-90s, I tried in vain to cancel an AOL membership via email. I never did find a phone number.

Culberjo: one thing I did only a few years back...I wanted so painfully to STOP getting mailed AOL's stupid tin holographic singing longbox trial offer CDs...so I called their activation number (which, of course, is much more prominently placed on their packaging than a customer service number) and kept demanding, even to people who's job it was only to sign customers up, to be removed from this mailing address. Eventually, I was connected to someone, and voila...no more CDs...

...until I moved.
posted by tpl1212 at 10:15 AM on December 16, 2004


bradnelson: the customer is always right, unless otherwise proved dude. But you must give him a chance to prove himself !

For instance, because of a technical problem I couldn't subscribe with an ISP using the automated email procedure they offered. I tried to contact them with general email contact, but it only answered to a pre-fixed form that didn't allow for comments and bounched any direct email ; this enormous idiocy is shown by a major ISP.So I looked for their contact number on their website, to no avail.

Luckly enough a friend of a friend knew somebody working in the company and had me contact the insider by email ; he promptly solved the problem and profused apologies for the disservice. He's not a $5 rent-a-brain and understands that the company was going to lose $$ because of that technical problem and because of their obsessive fixation of "email only, to cut costs".

Because of the immense avaiability of $5 hour rent a body in the current U.S. market (not mentioning india or other countries) I don't understand Amazon attitude at doing without a customer service number on frontpage. Ok, they're retailers and work on thin margins but they could use the phone answerers to answer email when they're not phoning.

They really must be in bad shape if none come up with this simple idea.
posted by elpapacito at 10:21 AM on December 16, 2004


I want to START getting AOL tin cds....I've tried to get them to send them to me to no avail. They're good for craft projects.

I've only had a couple problems with Amazon, all easily resolved through email. They're tops in customer service to me.
posted by agregoli at 10:26 AM on December 16, 2004


I am currently having problems with 1and1.com. (Surprise!) Their service is absolutely dreadful and I've been trying to cancel with them but they insist on a written cancellation from me even though I've confirmed the cancellation via telephone and email. I have a 3 year free plan with them and I moved the domain to another service after only 1 week with them so it's not costing me anything to not cancel it but it's still bloody ludicrous. Easily the worst company I've dealt with in over a decade online. I had to send seventeen (yes, seventeen) emails to get a response from their billing department that actually addressed my specific question (they were trying to bill me for the transferred domain). Eventually, that problem was solved on the phone. They then emailed me 6 times to answer a survey about how my phone call went.
posted by dobbs at 10:30 AM on December 16, 2004


elpapacito, I agree with your case, but my company makes email contact VERY easy. And every email is answered by a human being. You may have been right in your case, but believe me, you're the exception. Probably 60-70% of the customers I speak to are wrong.

jennybaxter, you got it dead-on. Everyone views the customer as an annoyance, not someone that we want to help out. Why? Because customers are pricks. They call up demanding this and that, they're rude, loud, and obnoxious. The nicer and more understanding a customer is, the more I'll help them. Mad and irrate customers...I'll do less for them. Even stuff I can do, I won't. As a quasi-supervisor, I can do just about anything I want for the customer, but I only will if they are nice and treat me with respect. Which few do.

The problem is my industry (software sales). The majority of the people that call up are stupid. They bought something that the don't know how to work. It's not my job to fix it. Call tech support and pay $300 a minute to get it fixed. Most of the time, the customer is wrong because they don't know what they bought.
posted by BradNelson at 10:55 AM on December 16, 2004


The one time I had an Amazon order problem, it was for the online Secret Santa thing, and the guy emailed me in January complaining that I hadn't sent him anything.

I (easily!) found the UK Amazon phone number, on the site, and rang them. The CSA apologised profusely and dispatched another one of whatever it was straight away.

The guy emailed again saying no replacement rang up.

Turned out, he hadn't changed his Wishlist address since he moved, so two copied of whatever it was ended up landing on some lucky fool's doorstep.
posted by armoured-ant at 11:00 AM on December 16, 2004


I guess whitepages.com is a big secret.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 11:19 AM on December 16, 2004


It's a choice, not a sentence.

Not always, rush. Once in a while you ARE getting boned for (whatever) infraction of the company rules by being 'demoted' back to the phones.
posted by kamylyon at 11:54 AM on December 16, 2004


I actually had to google Amazon.ca's yesterday. Ordered Macromedia Studio MX Upgrade package while trying to order the non-upgrade package (stupid mistake, I know). Took me about 2 min to find it online and by that time, according to the customer service rep, it was too late to cancel my order. My package had already been sent for shipping.

Either Amazon.ca is the most efficient business in Canada or the customer service rep was full of shit.

I agree though. It would be nice if they had their number on the website.
posted by fizz-ed at 12:09 PM on December 16, 2004


On Mr. Customer Service, Brad Nelson......

The Company is run by Bradley Nelson, a History and Political Science student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He is focusing on Modern European History and International Politics. He has a keen interest in the CIA and the intelligence community in general, thanks to an introduction to the works of Tom Clancy at a relatively young age. He also runs a personal, semi-political blog, BradNelson.com.

So he really is just a guy who probably answers phones....I
posted by szg8 at 12:17 PM on December 16, 2004


Anyone ever find out Yahoo's number? I've got some words I've been saving up for them from when they started charging for POP email.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:18 PM on December 16, 2004


So he really is just a guy who probably answers phones

Yes. That's my job. I didn't realize there was any question.
posted by BradNelson at 1:01 PM on December 16, 2004


Anyone ever find out Yahoo's number? I've got some words I've been saving up for them from when they started charging for POP email.

Yahoo! Inc.
701 1st Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
Phone: 408-349-3300
Fax: 408-349-3301

(from Hoover's)
posted by mudpuppie at 1:11 PM on December 16, 2004


Mad and irrate customers...

The thing is, they are often "mad and irate" for a valid reason, with your company at fault. And in such cases you are under an obligation to remedy the fault.

Or you could just be an asshole and try to be as unhelpful as you can, I guess. Not everyone is professional in their approach to their job.
posted by rushmc at 1:19 PM on December 16, 2004


szg8: why, do have you something against tom clancy loving, historing learning , politic mongering phone answering blog owners with a ratio of 7 pissed customers out of 10 ? He probably works for Microsoft.
posted by elpapacito at 1:22 PM on December 16, 2004


Angry customers (when I was working in the industry) were usually routed to me. I rarely had a pissed off customer that I couldn't calm down and get the details for the anger.

As a matter of fact, I still have former customers (who will soon be customers again, when I get back to Colorado) who email me to let me know they're still alive.

I started out on the phones, it takes a toll on everyone who has to do it. When I moved to email and chat, the threat of going back to the phones was held over our heads, an ever-present shadow of gloom on an otherwise pleasant job.
posted by kamylyon at 1:58 PM on December 16, 2004


they are often "mad and irate" for a valid reason, with your company at fault.

Often, but not always. If it's our fault, I'll fix the problem. My company is a third-party for sales, so we can't solve every problem. Like kamylyon, the majority of my work is emails and chat, but for various reasons, there are a select number of calls that I have to take since no one else is trained/qualified for. Phones suck. I get annoyed by how pretentious customers are. I get a surprising number of calls where people call in pissed off because they don't know what's going on. When I explain it to them...they're no longer upset. It's because customer's are stupid.

When I take escalated calls (customers demanding a supervisor), I'll do what I can to make the customer happy, as long as they are being respectful. The problem is, because we are pretending to be another company (we sell stuff for other companies), people think they're talking to that company and expect us to be able to solve the problem. But we're a contracter, so we can't always do that. I know I sound like a prick, but take my job for a day and you'll change your mind.

The customers who are smart and always right are the ones who never call customer service.

And no, I don't work for Microsoft.
posted by BradNelson at 2:17 PM on December 16, 2004


Simple fact about customer services - if you give respect you will get it in return. Ask any button/phone-monkey. Even when a company has shat in my cornflakes I still approach them with humour and a happy tone. I always say please and thank you and try to be nice to the person on the other end of the phone.

If you came up to me in a shop and spoke to me like some people talk to me on the phone you'd get fuckin' smacked. I lost a job for doing that one time and I'd do it again. The customer/service person relationship does not give you the right to act like a twat.

/has worked in customer services for an extra-long time, enjoys it and is above all damn good at it.
posted by longbaugh at 3:01 PM on December 16, 2004


BradNelson: all caps makes my head ache...
posted by kamylyon at 3:04 PM on December 16, 2004


longbaugh, right on. People act like jerks over the phone and on MeFi (or any other website), but not in real person. Usually.

A customer service reps are good people. We just get pissed off with annoying customers.
posted by BradNelson at 3:42 PM on December 16, 2004


"It's because customer's are stupid."

I love sentences like this. It's "customers".

I agree that if you treat customers with respect, then you usually get that in return. I've worked in retail (off and on) for the past 13 years. Co-workers who claim that 70% of their customers are shitty are usually shitty workers - at least shitty at customer service.

One of the problems with customer service is that you are dealing with similar complaints over and over again from people who just don't understand how your service properly works. As an employee, you're typically very experienced with the matter at hand. Some customer service reps tend to lose sight of the fact that the customer doesn't have the benefit of your/their experience.
posted by fizz-ed at 3:59 PM on December 16, 2004


The problem is, because we are pretending to be another company (we sell stuff for other companies), people think they're talking to that company and expect us to be able to solve the problem.

So you have deluded the customer and yet his problems are the result of his innate stupidity? Uh huh.
posted by rushmc at 4:22 PM on December 16, 2004


The reason companies hide it is because it costs them money (time, people, etc) to take calls.

Bullshit.

I regularly deal with resellers from China selling products that I can't imagine them making more than $1 per part on and even *THEY* have phone numbers. When I import such products I can make a markup of over 500%, if that tells you anything of the profit level they *aren't* taking.

What possible kind of baubles are you selling that you make so little on you can't even compete with the service a hole-in-the-wall Chinese reseller can offer?

Sorry to make you feel bad, but seriously, that's how cheap and easy it is to have a phone number. If you don't want every tom dick and harry calling it, man it with people in India and *don't* use an 800 number. You won't get many nuts calling india at whatever ungodly rate they'll have to pay.

The neat thing is that I've never had to phone that number, never even considered it. That's because (oddly enough) I can get a *PERSONAL*, non-automated reply within 1 business day by email. Most USA companies (and *especially* companies in the USA -- I've dealt with companies from Slovenia, UK, etc who match the Chinese for quality of email service) don't understand what using email to cut your phone costs means.

It doesn't mean "Send out an automated reply and ignore the first 3 emails until they read the 20 page reply to find the secret hidden email address that sends another 20 page reply with a secret hidden weblink to an online chat where someone is helping 5 other people at the same time and has no authority to solve your problem anyways." But that's what 100% of USA companies I've dealt with seem to think it is. Examples: McAfee, eBay, some random Cell Phone parts company in California. There's others but I can't put a name to their stores at the moment.

It does mean: "I spent 30 minutes reading your email and seeing how I can help you today and here is my carefully thought out and easily understandable reply that is surely going to help you, and if it doesn't, here's my personal email address that I answer ASAP."

I suppose I should put it a bit more basic: I don't do business with stores in the USA much at all anymore.

You don't like and you aren't going to do business with us? Buh-bye!! We'd rather you go somewhere else than tie up our phone lines.

As you can see, it's not much of an issue. I'm just going to say "buh-bye" to your company because to me, they don't exist.

How you can possibly even pretend to tell me that you can't beat the service level of a store in China is amazing, unless you're living in China working in a Chinese factory. Then, perhaps, maybe, yeah, I can understand it.

Otherwise, if you're in the USA, fuggedaboudit.
posted by shepd at 10:26 PM on December 16, 2004


As a customer service rep for a company that tries very hard to hide their phone number...yes, Amazon will shortly be changing their number.

BradNelson, as someone who bothered to read the posts in this thread above your own... no, Amazon will not likely be changing their number. They've had this number for years, it's certainly no secret, nor was its "discovery" news of any kind, despite what braun_richard thinks. It's the #1 result on Google for Amazon Customer Service Number, for God's sake. They may not want people to call it, but they aren't going to go to excessive lengths to keep people from calling it (merely not publishing it seems to do just fine).
posted by jonson at 1:09 AM on December 17, 2004


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